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[singing] [singing continues] [chorus singing "Oh Freedom"] [Host] 1619, Jamestown, Virginia. A Dutch ship dropped anchor with a cargo of black men and women for sale. [singing]
[singing continues] In the 18th century seven million black people were abducted from Africa. The slave trade was one of the world's biggest businesses. [singing] [singing] [singing spiritual] 1860, New Orleans. A prime field hand sold for 1800 dollars. [Singing "Oh Freedom"]
[Ossie Davis] You asked me how it was with us during slavery time. Well I'll tell you. Everything I tell you is the truth. But there's some things I can't tell you.
[Ruby Dee] Sunday. [Davis] Yeah that was our best day wasn't it? [Dee] That was the only time we had to ourselves. First we went to the white folks' church where we sit in the back on the floor. They allowed us to join their church when everyone (inaudible). Ourself the Lord has forgiven us of our sins. Then the white preacher would ask our mistress and master what they thought about us, and if they could see any change. [Actress 1] I notice you don't steal. [Actress 2] And I notice you don't lie as much. [Actor 1] And I notice you works better. [Dee] Then they let us join. We served our mistress and master in slavery time, not God. [Davis] They used to lock my grandmother up in the seed house when she was a girl 'cause she wouldn't go to
church and she used to cuss out the preacher so loud that he could hear her. "Let me out of here, master." She'd say. "You want to go to church?" He'd say. "hell no," she'd say. "I don't want to hear that old sermon." "Don't go on to your master's hen house and don't steal your master's chickens. Don't break into your master's smoke house and don't steal his meet, I don't steal nothing. I don't need no damn preacher to tell me not to." [Dee] You know one time this old white man came along, the one that just preached, so the white folks decided to try him out on us Negroes first. So he came down to the quarters and this is what his sermon was. "Now when you servants are working for your master, you must be honest, when you go to the mill, don't carry along an extra sack and put a little bit of meal in it, and flour in it for yourself. And when you women are cooking in the big house don't make a big pocket under your apron and
put a sack of sugar and a sack of coffee and anything else you want in it. Don't do that." They took him out and hanged him for corrupting the morals of us slaves. [singing] [Host] Early 18th century, slaves were adopted throughout the South. No slaves could leave the plantation without written permission. No slave could strike a white person. No slave could be taught to read or write. [Davis] The week between Christmas and New Years, There was a lot of holidays and we weren't required to work then. [Dee] And those of us who had families that were distant were generally allowed to spend the whole six days with them. [Host] 1793, one slave could seed and clean
one pound of cotton in one day. Slavery was an un-economical, it seemed to be dying. [Davis] Any of us ever drive the ox? [Group] Oh yeah. [Davis] Well now the mule ain't nowhere near the oxen. I tell you the ox is stubborn and then some. One day I'm holding fence rails, you know, And the oxen starts to turn to "jee". Well I want him to go straight ahead. So naturally I call over to the oxen to turn "ho." They don't pay no attention to me and keep right on turning "jee." And then the overseer, he come shouting "Where you going?" And I shot right back at him, "I ain't going, I'm being took." [Host] 1794, Eli Whitney patented the cotton gin, one slave could seed and clean fifty pounds of cotton in one day. [Dee] Yeah yeah I recall Old master told Tom that he couldn't go to the
frolic. "Clean up them dishes and go to bed," he said. Tom say, "yessuh." But the master watched Tom through the door, and sure enough after a while, Tom slipped out and went on to the frolic anyway. The master right time. When the master got to the frolic he found Tom cutting the ground shuffle big as anybody and he say "Tom, didn't I tell you you couldn't come to this frolic?" and Tom say "Yeah, you sure did, I just come to tell them I couldn't come." [Host] Steam was harnessed to the cotton gin. One slave could seed and clean one thousand pounds of cotton in one day. [Davis] My mama told me about a master that almost starved his slaves to death. One time he had seven hogs; fat, and ready for hog-killing time. But the day before them hogs was supposed to be killed something awful happened to every last one of them. A field hand found them and come running to tell the master "the hogs is dead, master, the hogs is dead,
and we ain't got no more meat on the plantation." When the master got to where the hogs was laying, whole lot of slaves were standing around looking sad and hungry-eyed at that wasted meat. The master said, "what's wrong with them?" they said "myelitis." And they acted like they didn't want to touch them hogs. Old Master said, "well scald them and cut them up anyway because that's all the meat we going to have for the winter." Now, old master wasn't about to eat them hogs himself. They had myelitis, and he was scared. So he give them to the slaves to eat. But the slaves didn't mind. They didn't know what myelitis was. Early that morning, one of the biggest of them had skidded up to the hog bin and knocked each one of them hogs dead in the center of his head with a great big old mallet, and that's how them hogs caught myelitis, that's how all the slaves had their belly full of pork that winter and old master didn't have none.
[Host] 1859, two-thirds of all slaves were engaged in the production of cotton, the foundation of the Southern economy. [singing] [Dee] I knew a woman, mother of several children and when her babies would get to be about a year or two of age, master would sell 'em and would break her heart. When a fourth child was born, she'd just sit and
study all the time about how she was going to have to give it up. And one day she say "I ain't going let old master sell this baby. I ain't gonna do it." And she got up, give it something out of her pocket, Pretty soon it was dead. [Actress 2] You know, Colonel Jesse Cheney, he was my master, and his wife Miss Sally was my mistress. [Actor 2] She was a Christian. [Actress 3] I can hear her praying yet. [Actress 2] Well just before the war, this white preacher came down to talk to us slaves, and he says "Do you want to keep your homes and raise your children and eat, or do you want to be free to roam around like wild animals?" He said "Now if you want to
keep your home, you better pray for the South to win. Now all you that's going to pray for the South to win, raise your hands. [group] We all raised our hands. [Actress 3] We were scared not to. [Actress 2] That night down in the hollow we slaves had a meeting and Uncle Macky stands up he says "We got to pray for the South to win, long as we in the white folks' church. But as soon as they turn their backs we is going to turn them prayers around." [Group] Right. [Host] For each five slaves delivered to be Americas, one died, committed suicide, was shot, or beaten to death on shipboard. [Actor 3] You know Colonel Cheney had a lot of slaves and all the houses was in a row, all one room cabins. [Actress 2] And clean. They kept them cabins and yards spotless. [Actress 4] Everything happened, happened in one room. Birth, Sickness, death. [Actress 5] But it was their home. It looked like a little old town, and late of an evening, as you go by the
doors you could smell the meat of fire. And the coffee and bacon, and good things cooking. [Actor 3] On the Fourth of July was always our special day. [Actress 4] Independence Day. [Actress 3] Yeah, master and missus give us our ration there early on that day. [Actor 4] Yes we was allowed to go to a big barbecue, after we done all the work. [Actress 5] We had pigs barbecued, goats barbecued. [Actress 2] And the missus would let us bake pies, cakes, custards. [Actress 5] The young 'uns acted like coons, a-frolicking in the fixings till they got done so full of vittles they couldn't eat another bite. [Actor 3] And after you know some of them sort of run off somewhere to sit in the shade of the trees. [Actress 5] When the sun started to go down, then the old folks started getting ready to move back to their plantations. [Actor 3] Well, we had the chickens to feed. [Actress 5] Oh hush. [sings Swing Low, Sweet Chariot] [Actress 4] Sometimes the missus would heist the window and ask us to sing something for her. [Actor 2] And we'd open up. [Host] 1741, New York
City. 18 Negroes were hanged, 13 burned at the stake, and 70 sold into the South for plotting to strike against their Masters. [Swing Low, Sweet Chariot ends] [Davis] Every time someone asked me about slavery and whether it done any good for the race, I think about the story of the 'coon and the dog that met up one day. The 'coon said to the dog, "how come you so fat, and I'm so cold, And we both is animals?" Dog grinned and said "well, I just lay around master's house and let him beat me and cuss me and kick me whenever he likes, so he likes me, he gives me bread right off the table." 'Coon thought for a minute and said "better I should be free." [Dee] My Pa never had a beating in his life.
He was helping a master one day and something come up between them and the Master say "Sal, you got to have a whupping." Pa steadied for a minute and he say, "I ain't never had a whupping before and I can't let you whup me now." And the Master started at Pa and he changed his mind because my Pa like I said was a great big man. And Master say, "Well maybe I can't whup you, but I can kill you." And he shot my Pa that day. [Host] August 1822, South Carolina. Denmark
Vesey, a Negro slave, was hanged for having organized an insurrection aimed at capturing Charleston. [Davis] We had a white overseer. The meanest man God ever put breath in. One day the field hands was burning the logs and trash. And this overseer knocked this old man down for nothing and made us hold him while he beat him with a bull whip. That old man got up off that ground and took a stick And hit that overseer upside is head and laid him out cold. And then he took an axe and started in to chop off his hands and his feet, we tried to stop him but It was too late. Master never wanted a white overseer on that place since that time. [Host] November 1831, Virginia. Nat Turner, a Negro slave, was hanged for leading a band of seventy slaves in a twenty mile march during which 57 whites were killed.
[Dee] This old woman was chopping cotton in the field and and overseer come by and hollered at her for being so slow. She gave him some back talk and he took out his long close wool bull whip and started in to lash her across her back. And that old woman got mad and she took her hoe and chopped that man to a bloody death. [Host] 1859, Harpers Ferry, West Virginia. John Brown attacked an arsenal to capture arms and start a Negro revolt. He was tried and hanged. [Davis] Whenever one of us died they let the field hands come in and look at him. But they always buried him before sundown. They take a big plank and bust it in the middle so it could bend back and then they'd shove his body
up in that and then they'd cart it down to the slave graveyard and bury it sometimes so shallow that buzzards would circle around. [Dee] My mother had 12 of us children and it troubled her in her heart to know the way we was treated. And she prayed every night to the Lord to get her and her children off that place. Well one day she was plowing in the field and all of a sudden she let out a big yell and started singing and shouting and hooping and hollering Master Jim came running and says "what's all this going on out in the field, you think I sent you out here just to hoot and yell, well no-sorry, I sent you out here to work, and you better work, or I'll put this tine across your black back." And my mama, she she just smiles all over her
face and she say, "The Lord has showed me the way, I ain't going to grieve no more, no matter how you treat me and my children, the Lord has showed me the way and some day we ain't going to never be slaves no more." And Old Master Jim took that bull whip and started lashing mama across her back but she didn't say nothin', she just got up and went on back to the field a-singing and a-shouting, "I'm free, I'm free, I'm free." [Host] April 12, 1861. Confederate troops fired on Fort Sumter. The Civil War had begun. [singing spiritual]
[singing] [spiritual] [spiritual] [group singing spiritual] [singing continues] [singing Glory Glory Hallelujah] [singing continues] [singing] [music]
[singing ends] [Dee] When I used to hear the old folks talk about the "Yankees was coming," I was scared because I thought they was talking about some kind of animal. But my old auntie wasn't scared, she was glad to hear about the Yankees coming. And she would sit and talk for hours about how good everything was going to be when the Yankees come. Well, something awful happened though to one of the slaves when the Yankees did come. One of the young girls, you know, told the soldiers where Missus had her money and jewelry and silver hidden, they got it all. I know she did wrong, but I hated to see her suffer so
awful. And after the Yankees had gone, missus and master had that poor girl hung. [Davis] They were come through looking for Jeff Davis, And they told me that I was free, I didn't have a master and a mistress no more. I helped fix dinner for them and after them one of them said, "now bring your hat, we're going to pay you." And they passed it, and they give me a hat full of Money. [Dee] I seen all the wheelers Confederate cavalry. Sherman come through first though, he stayed the whole night, thousands and thousands of soldiers passed through during the night. The Confederate cavalry though was about three days before Sherman, but they caught up with him. But it would have been better if they hadn't because Sherman turned, whipped them, and throw them back, and went right on marching, don't you know. [Davis] Old Master called us all into the kitchen the day before he went into the kitchen, and he said "Boys,
I've got to go up there and whup me some Yankees, but don't worry, I'll be back before breakfast. We've been waiting breakfast for the old man for 2 years. [Dee] The prettiest thing I ever saw was the Yankees traveling, the drums and the kettledrums and them horses. Them horses know their business too, they had gold bits in their mouths, looked like their bridles were covered in silver and gold, And the Yankees, God bless them, were sitting up there with them long, shiny swords. Prettiest sight in this world, I'm here to tell you. [Davis] We was at Tappan and this great Big battle between the Yankees and the rebels and they was fighting against each other and they were shooting something awful, something terrible, and they was shooting all over the place. [Dee] And all of a sudden they struck out that "Yankee Doodle" song and a soldier come along and called to me "which way to the rebel?" Scared to death, I was, So I went behind a house where nobody could see me and I pointed out the direction. Those were the Union soldiers
going after Lee at Appomattox. [Davis] And the colored regiment come dashing up behind. And when the rebels saw that colored regiment they put up their white flag, and that flag was the token that Lee had finally surrendered. [Dee] End of the war, it come just like that. Just like you snap your finger, had we known, Hallellujah broke out. [singing Oh Freedom] [Davis] Suddenly there was soldiers everywhere, crossing and riding, everybody was singing. Everybody was walking on a golden cloud. Everybody went wild, we all felt like we were heroes. We were free, just like that we were free. [Dee] We seemed to want to get closer to freedom. [Davis] So we could know it, really know it.
Just what it was. [Dee] Like freedom was a place or city. [Davis] And we, we just had to be there, or die. [Oh Freedom] [singing continues] [singing] [music] [Oh Freedom continues]
[music continues] [music ends] This is NET. The National Educational Television Network.
Series
History of the Negro People
Episode Number
3
Episode
Slavery
Producing Organization
National Educational Television and Radio Center
Contributing Organization
Thirteen WNET (New York, New York)
Library of Congress (Washington, District of Columbia)
AAPB ID
cpb-aacip/62-b56d21rv3n
NOLA Code
HONP 000103
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Description
Episode Description
You ask me how it was with us in slavery time. Well, I'll tell you. Now everything I tell you is the truth, but they's plenty I can't tell you... His dramatic and choral work starring Ossie Davis, Ruby Dee, and the choral group "The Voices Inc." is a portrait of life under slavery. Based on the actual testimony of former slaves, the tragic and sometimes humorous experiences of life in the old South is told - joining the white folk's church, outwitting the master, going to the Fourth of July barbecue, working in the fields, and finally, being liberated by the victorious Yankee troops. ("Everybody was singing. We was all walking on golden clouds)." Anecdote and song are backed by the narrator's sobering historical account ("In 1860 a New Orleans prime field hand sold for $1,800"... "In the 18th century 7 million Negroes were abducted from Africa)." The chorus sings the old Negro spirituals that sprang from this era, "Good News," "The Chariot's Coming," "Deep River," "Go Down Moses," "Battle Hymn of the Republic," and others. (Description adapted from documents in the NET Microfiche)
Series Description
The little known and long ignored heritage and history of the Negro people is explored in an unprecedented television effort. To prepare this series of nine half-hour episodes, N.E.T.'s cameras traveled throughout the United States, to Africa, and to Latin America. Hosted and narrated by Broadway actor Ossie Davis, History of the Negro People also calls upon the talents of novelists John A. Williams, Cyprian Ekwensi, Jorge Amado, and Chinua Achebe; Basil Davidson, noted British writer and historian on Africa; actors Frederick O'Neal, Roscoe Lee Browne, and Hugh Hurd; John Henry Clark, writer and teacher; historian Gilberto Freyre, actress Ruby Dee; the choral group "The Voices Inc.," and a number of other personalities. The episodes vary in format, with dramatic, documentary, and discussion techniques employed according to the subject and content of each half-hour. The final episode is extended to 75 minutes. In addition to being host on the series, Mr. Davis has written the script for episode 3, Slavery, a dramatic and choral work adapted from the testimony of former slaves. He appears in the episode with his wife, actress Ruby Dee, and the choral group The Voices, Inc. History of the Negro People is a 1965 production of National Educational Television. The 9 episodes that comprise this series were originally recorded in black and white on videotape. (Description adapted from documents in the NET Microfiche)
Broadcast Date
1965-10-26
Asset type
Episode
Topics
History
Race and Ethnicity
Subjects
African Americans; History
Rights
Copyright National Educational Television & Radio Center October 24, 1965
Media type
Moving Image
Duration
00:29:40
Embed Code
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Credits
Actor: Davis, Ossie
Actor: Dee, Ruby
Actor: Gampel, Chris M.
Associate Director: Rockefeller, Ken
Associate Director: Rockefeller, Ken
Associate Producer: Broder, Rita
Associate Producer: Broder, Rita
Audio: Lombardo, Gino
Camera Operator: Winkler, Peter
Copyright Holder: National Educational Television and Radio Center
Director: Minnix, Bruce
Director: Minnix, Bruce
Editor: Bekowsky, Harvey
Editor: Greene, Nat
Editorial Consultant: Harrington, Evans
Executive Producer: Howard, Brice
Film Coordinator: Miller, Perry
Film Editor: Bekowsky, Harvey
Film Editor: Greene, Nat
Lighting Director: Manning, Fred
Narrator: Gampel, Chris M.
Performer: Davis, Ossie
Performer: Dee, Ruby
Performer: Hall, Bernice
Performer: Jackson, Jo
Performer: Jackson, Sylvia
Performer: Smith, Melba
Performer: DeVore, Jesse
Performer: Mitchell, Charles
Performer: Saunders, Garrett
Performer: Wright, James
Performer: Wright, James
Performing Group: The Voices, Inc.
Performing Group: The Voices Inc.
Producer: Rabin, Arthur W.
Producer: Rabin, Arthur W.
Producing Organization: National Educational Television and Radio Center
Production Designer: Rosen, Charles
Researcher: Ogden, Joan
Sound: Lombardo, Gino
Technical Director: Polito, Joseph
Unit Manager: Buchsbaum, Donald
Video: Henning, Ed
Writer: Davis, Ossie
Writer: Rabin, Arthur W.
Writer: Davis, Ossie - Adaption by
Writer: Rosen, Charles - Designer
Writer: Harrington, Evans - Editorial Consultant
Writer: Miller, Perry - Film Coordinator
Writer: Winkler, Peter
AAPB Contributor Holdings
Thirteen - New York Public Media (WNET)
Identifier: wnet_aacip_32298 (WNET)
Format: Digital Betacam
Generation: Master
Duration: 00:29:00
Thirteen - New York Public Media (WNET)
Identifier: LWO #41265 (unknown)
Format: Digital Betacam
Generation: Master
Color: B&W
Duration: 00:29:05
Thirteen - New York Public Media (WNET)
Identifier: netnola_honp_slavery_doc (WNET Archive)
Format: Video/quicktime
Library of Congress
Identifier: 1204714-1 (MAVIS Item ID)
Format: 16mm film
Generation: Copy: Access
Color: B&W
Library of Congress
Identifier: 1204714-2 (MAVIS Item ID)
Format: Digital Betacam
Generation: Master
Color: B&W
Library of Congress
Identifier: 1204714-3 (MAVIS Item ID)
Format: 2 inch videotape: Quad
Generation: Master
Color: B&W
Library of Congress
Identifier: 1204714-4 (MAVIS Item ID)
Format: Digital Betacam
Generation: Copy: Access
Color: B&W
Library of Congress
Identifier: 1204714-5 (MAVIS Item ID)
Format: Betacam: SP
Generation: Master
Color: B&W
Library of Congress
Identifier: 1204714-6 (MAVIS Item ID)
Generation: Master
Library of Congress
Identifier: 1204714-7 (MAVIS Item ID)
Generation: Copy: Access
Library of Congress
Identifier: 1204714-1 (MAVIS Item ID)
Format: 16mm film
Generation: Copy: Access
Color: B&W
Library of Congress
Identifier: 1204714-2 (MAVIS Item ID)
Format: Digital Betacam
Generation: Master
Color: B&W
Library of Congress
Identifier: 1204714-3 (MAVIS Item ID)
Format: 2 inch videotape: Quad
Generation: Master
Color: B&W
Library of Congress
Identifier: 1204714-4 (MAVIS Item ID)
Format: Digital Betacam
Generation: Copy: Access
Color: B&W
Library of Congress
Identifier: 1204714-5 (MAVIS Item ID)
Format: Betacam: SP
Generation: Master
Color: B&W
Library of Congress
Identifier: 1204714-6 (MAVIS Item ID)
Generation: Master
Library of Congress
Identifier: 1204714-7 (MAVIS Item ID)
Generation: Copy: Access
Indiana University Libraries Moving Image Archive
Identifier: [request film based on title] (Indiana University)
Format: 16mm film
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Citations
Chicago: “History of the Negro People; 3; Slavery,” 1965-10-26, Thirteen WNET, Library of Congress, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed April 25, 2024, http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-62-b56d21rv3n.
MLA: “History of the Negro People; 3; Slavery.” 1965-10-26. Thirteen WNET, Library of Congress, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. April 25, 2024. <http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-62-b56d21rv3n>.
APA: History of the Negro People; 3; Slavery. Boston, MA: Thirteen WNET, Library of Congress, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-62-b56d21rv3n